After a first-level-of-detail presentation to the Navy in 2005 on the F-35C Lightning II, a top team from Lockheed-Martin gave the Indian Air Force a classified presentation on the F-35A Lightning II on Tuesday at Vayu Bhawan. The team, led by Tom Green (VP, Business Development), gave the IAF a preliminary introductory presentation on the capabilities, economics and opportunities for own systems integration on the F-35. A more detailed presentation is likely to be made later this year. The plug is of course something Lockheed-Martin has been pushing for a while now. If the Indian government chooses to buy 126 F-16s, it would lead them logically toward switching to the fifth generation F-35 in two decades (a little rich, if you ask me).
Either way, India will only be a buyer of the aircraft, with no participatory opportunities left. The only Level I partner in the $40 billion programme (other than, of course, the US) is the UK. Italy and Holland are Level II partners. Canada, Turkey, Australia, Norway and Denmark are Level III partners and Israel and Singapore are on board as security cooperative participants, where they commit in-principle to a certain purchase but make no investment in the development. The levels simply reflect the level of financial exposure each government has in the programme.
It makes little sense in terms of where the IAF is, and where it’s headed. It looks like everyone’s throwing something at the government and expecting it to make decision rapidly — big mistake, because that just isn’t the way the government works. And in this case, rightly so. Speaking of 5G, the government has the PAK-FA negotiations on with the Russians, the MCA with HAL/DRDO and, in time, a Mk-II of the LCA. Where does the F-35 fit into all of that? Or does it?